5 Secrets for Turning Employees into Brand Advocates

Carla Johnson published an excellent article on Building a Strong Brand form the Inside Out. The article was about how companies and organizations should use their employees to help tell their story. After all, your employees know a lot about your products and services, and, hopefully, are enthusiastic about them. Turning your employees into brand advocates can pay off big. You build a larger, and more engaged social media team. Community interaction goes up, and stronger bonds are formed between the people supplying the service, and the people consuming it. Successfully creating brand advocates, however, can be challenging and time consuming. In this article, I want to take this discussion a step further. I’ll share 5 secrets we’ve found that help turn employees into brand advocates.

The Challenges

What’s so challenging about creating brand advocates out of employees? There are many, but the largest challenges are:

  • Identifying good candidates: Not everyone is a great fit to create content, or to interact with communities. You need to know how to select the best candidates with the most potential to succeed.
  • Time: This is probably the biggest hurdle. Any employee you approach to help augment your social media activities will already have a full time job. Your plan has to address this. If social media work is just one more thing on their plate, you’re not going to get a good response. 
  • Motivation: The people you select need to have passion for what they’re doing. Passion about the brand, its products and services, and passion about communicating it.
  • Lack of plans and process. Many organizations don’t have good social media plans or processes in place. That makes it difficult to plug new employees in. They end up floundering in ad-hoc, just-in-time land, which no-one likes.
  • Lack of skills: Personal challenges can range from a lack of writing skills, to being shy in social media interaction scenarios.

Secret 1: Plug Into the Internal Community

If you’re a social media manager, you probably spend a lot of time staying plugged in to the communities you manage. You should spend a similar amount of time being plugged into the communities inside your company. Let me clarify. Social media managers are marketers, and as such are usually plugged into product releases, news, and other information. You’re well informed, and that needs to be the case, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I mean the cliques in the lunch room, the seemingly sullen group of product engineers that always walk through the arbor every afternoon at 2:30, and anyone laughing, and having a good time. Make yourself a semi-regular participant. Why?  So you can practice old school social listening by showing up and listening.

By doing this you will learn several things. You will likely hear thoughts, feelings, and opinions that differ from the corporate line. But those thoughts, feelings, and opinions may resonate better with some of your community segments, and may help you translate corporate positioning into content marketing pieces that resonate better with customers. It will also help you identify potential brand advocates. Who are they? They might be the people leading the discussion in those separate groups. They might be the quiet ones who listen, and then chime in with an insightful or funny observations. You’ll see who has passion, and who speaks well about the brand, its products and services. That will guide choosing people who will make the best brand advocates.

Secret 2: Develop Employees Personas

Carla went into detail on this in her article, so I won’t repeat it. I will add to it. One question that pops into your head might be, “How do I know what the personas are?”  See Secret 1 above. The different cliques, are the different voices of your employees. Each conversation will have a different personality, and you can model your employee personas off of those. If you have a technical product, the engineering team’s persona will be different than the product team, which will be different from executive team. Those different personas might be better to deliver implementation content, versus feature reviews, versus cost benefit and ROI analysis.

Secret 3: Use Sound Social Media Plans and Processes

A successful social media approach has many requirements from audit to segment targeting, to measurement and reporting. For this discussion, I want to focus on the execution. You’re likely to plug your employee brand advocates into content creation, community management, or both. Having strong, well defined processes for content creation and community management will make those processes less chaotic and easier to manage. It will also allow you to bring your new employee brand advocates into those tasks more easily with less stress.

To see our recommendations for putting a strong content process in place, see our earlier post on Overcoming Content Challenges. Using content tools and processes like editorial calendars, and action plans make people accountable, help plan realistic time expenditure, and set reasonable due dates. Effort expectations are clear, and social media hours can be accounted for when considering other work responsibilities.  The bumps are smoothed out, and the entire process is easier at all levels.

For better community management, see our post on Helping Community Managers Succeed.  Having tools like a triage chart, and social media policies provides a foundation for new employee brand advocates in representing your organization in social media. They provide both a safety net, to help them deal with challenging situations, and a helping hand that will give them confidence when interacting with the community.

Secret 4: Team Up New Brand Advocates with More Experienced People

Your new employee brand advocates are likely to be experts in their field, but they may not be experts in social media. Some may not know the ins and outs of the platforms they need to interact with. Others may not feel their writing is worthy to be published publicly, or may not feel confident in responding to comments from the social media community. For many, social media tasks aren’t what they signed on for. It’s new, there’s a learning curve, they hesitate, other work piles up, and then something that was supposed to be cool and fun becomes a chore. It can stress people out. The right person with a good process to plug into can still fail, simply because they need a little extra help get started. 

Help them out. Give them a buddy. Someone with experience that can help guide them through the process you have in place. Someone from the social media team who has created content or managed community interaction before. Someone to give them a helping hand through their first social media tasks. For new community managers, a wingman. For new content authors someone to help brainstorm ideas, edit drafts, and help break any writing or creative blocks.

Secret 5: Training

If you read my blog or view my other content, then you know that I push for comprehensive training across all social media competencies. Why? People with better training can plug into social media rhythms faster, and are more likely to be successful. We teach a comprehensive social media strategist course that I authored, but we also teach content marketing and community management specific courses. Those are two areas where clients frequently need help. If you’re looking for training, reach out, we offer custom training on a variety of social media topics from profile setup and optimization, to content marketing, to community management. Reach out to us for a free training consult.